tonight on "nightline," love story. commander mark kelly tells diane sawyer about his week at the bedside of his wife, congresswoman gabrielle gef fords, and the miracle of her recovery. it's an abc news exclusive. doubling down. a command leer you can walk through, caviar tacos, rooms fit for royalty. just because they built it, will anyone come? we'll go inside what some are calling the last great las vegas casino. and a brief history of regis. from the early days to
"millionaire" to his name sake hit show, regis philbin announces his retirement, and we break down his legendary career by the numbers. >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," january 18th, 2011. >> good evening, i'm terry moran. and we begin tonight with a story of love, courage and grace. commander mark kelly has thrown in space three times, but he says he's closest to heaven when he's with his wife, congresswoman gabrielle giffords. in just three months time, commander kelly's scheduled to fly into space again, and not least among the signs of optimism about his wife's condition is that he has not ruled out that trip. here's diane sawyer with an abc news exclusive. >> reporter: it started as a typical weekend for the long distance couple.
commander mark kelly at home with his daughters in houston. his wife, gabrielle giffords, in tucson, preparing for a public event. how did you hear? >> on saturday morning, i received a call from my wife's chief of staff. she says, i don't know how to tell you about this, but gabby's been shot. >> reporter: didn't know whether it was serious at that point -- >> no, we had no idea. i just couldn't believe it. >> reporter: kelly had spoken with his wife just 30 minutes earlier. now, in a fog of disbelief, a friend gave him and the family a ride on a private plane to tucson. and he says, on board, he made the mistake of turning on the news, with its riot of misinformation. >> we had the tv on, and they reported that she had died. >> the congresswoman has been killed. >> representative giffords is dead. >> reporter: a . >> i just walked into the bathroom and broke down.
and tried to get ahold of myself and then walked out and gave the kid as hug, and my mother, and said, this is going to be all right. we'll get through this. >> reporter: but then, he would learn that gabrielle was, in fact, alive, in the operating room. she was in critical condition as doctors worked to save her life. a bullet had been fired into her head at point blank range. >> happened at a congress on your corner. you know, my wife, giving the people she serves the opportunity to speak to her. >> reporter: had you been worried for her safety? >> absolutely, yes. and she was. she was really, really concerned. but she, she thought this was the right thing to do. >> how are you doing? >> i'm great. hi, how are you? >> reporter: yet, on this saturday, six people were murdered, 13 others wounded, in the mass shooting that left gabrielle giffords clinging to life.
>> nothing, you know, prepares you for something like this. >> reporter: mark kelly began his around the clock vigil at her bedside in the hospital. he also began to take stock of all the damage done, her beloved friends who had perished that day. and the 9-year-old girl, christina-taylor green, who was taken to the saturday morning event by a loving neighbor. >> she stood her up there right in front. she leaned down next to her and said -- said, you know, some day, you know, you could grow up and be like gabrielle giffords. and those were the last words she heard. >> reporter: we now know that the gunman, jared loughner, had a grudge against giffords. have you seen the picture of jared loughner? >> yes, i did. >> reporter: can you imagine
ever saying anything to him? >> him, no. >> reporter: have you thought what you would say to jared loughner's parents? what if they asked to see you? >> i'd probably see them. i don't think it's their fault. i'm sure they love their son and they must be, you know, as distraught over this as all of us are. >> reporter: commander kelly says he's not really watching the coverage on tv. instead, his focus is on his wife's recovery. >> for me, in some ways, it's kind of like a space shuttle mission. you're busy and working all day and you don't want to make any mistakes. >> reporter: the bullet that went through his wife's brain somehow missed major veins. she's been able to squeeze a hand, open her eyes. >> the progress she has made with this injury has been nothing short of a miracle. >> reporter: does she recognize you? >> pretty sure she does. and certainly today.
>> reporter: what convinced you? >> she started playing with my wedding ring. so, if i hold her hand, she'll play with my wedding ring. and she'll move it up and down my finger, she'll take it off, like this, she'll put it on her own finger, she'll move it to her thumb and then she can put it back on my finger. and the reason why i know that that means she recognizes me is because she's done that before. >> two, one. and liftoff of "discovery." >> reporter: giffords once admitted she was fearful when her husband, commander of the space shuttle, left on the 1.6 million pounds of rocket fuel. she wrote him final letters to take with him into space. >> and i read those in space. usually a couple pictures in there. so, yes. you know, when i get home, back to houston, i'll find them and read them again.
>> good morning "discovery." from your friends and family around the world. >> reporter: and once, she sent a special song. everybody remembers when she woke you up with "beautiful day." >> yes. she loves that song. it's her favorite song. >> good morning, houston. want to say thanks to gabrielle for the great choice for wakeup music. i've been meaning to get it into her room. have a little music in the background for her. >> reporter: what would be the most wonderful thing to see a year from now? >> a year? i've given her -- i told the doctors, i put her on a schedule. i told her that, she's going to be walking in two weeks, and, you know, that's -- i've told her this already. she has the goal, so -- >> reporter: kelly hopes soon, he will hear his wife's voice. >> might be ten minutes after we're done here. because that's where i'm going. i mean, i'm going to walk out of this room and i'll be by gabrielle's bedside.
so, i'm hopeful. gabrielle giffords is too tough to let this beat her. >> reporter: and what do you think she'd most want to say to everybody listening tonight, if she could? >> you know, she would say that, you know, it's time to turn, you know, turn something really bad into something good. >> reporter: how many more days can you sit by her side holding her hand? >> as many as it takes. you know? i -- whatever it takes. >> reporter: he's not yet decided if he'll command what is scheduled to be the last shuttle mission, three months from now. april 19th, will you be the commander of the final shuttle mission? >> that's a -- that's a good question. i don't know. i -- i don't know. >> reporter: at this point, would you -- >> i don't know. i've got some time to think about it. i, ideally, i would like to have
that conversation with gabby. i've -- you know, i've flown in space three times. >> here's our pilot, mark kelly. >> i don't have to do it again. my number one priority is her. >> reporter: and so the astronaut husband will now concentrate with his wife, holding her hand, to play with his wedding ring. hers bears an inscription. "you're the closest to heaven i've ever been." you're the closest to heaven? >> yeah. yes. that's true. >> the astronaut and the congresswoman. good luck to them both. and thanks to diane sawyer for that interview. when we come back, well, a stately pleasure dome on the las vegas horizon, but is the cosmopolitan the last casino of its kind? depression is a serious medical condition.
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an asteroid may have done in the dinosaurs and global warming seems to be gaining on the icecaps, but might las vegas' megacasinos also be headed for extinction? the victims of an economic deep impact. well, here's my co-anchor bill weir with an inside look at what may be the last of a dizzying, dazzling, dying breed.
>> reporter: the hottest party in vegas this new year's eve cost $25 million. but it was not at any of the monster casinos americans know so well. and it had nothing to do with magicians or show girls. ♪ yeah they love me everywhere >> reporter: instead, jay-z and cold play rocked this place. no history no gambling legacy. and nobody thought it had a chance of opening. but against all odds, the cosmopolitan is the talk of sin city these days, for reasons far beyond their curious ad campaign. >> my mom called me and said, i saw that commercial and -- i don't know what it meant but i kind of liked it. >> reporter: really? the one with the pantsless bellboy? >> she liked it. it's got puppies, too. >> reporter: john is the man in charge of the cosmopolitan. the leading man in a story that
represents america's boom and bust era like few others. the casino metaphor is often used as the causes of the great recession, but it fits. six years ago, this dropper unveiled plans for an almost $4 billion monstrosity with 28-f p. but when he defaulted on his loans, deutsch bank baecame the owners. >> my first visit, i stayed at caesars. >> reporter: after finding no buyers, they doubled down, lured him away from caesars and finished the place with a new concept. so, who do you think is your ideal clientele? who are you going for? >> we call our customer the curious class, which is 59 million americans who self-identify as they enjoy travel, they're open minded, they like to explore, they enjoy
interesting hotel concepts. >> reporter: so, this is for people who don't want to bring the kids to see pirate ships? >> i would agree with that. >> reporter: yes, instead of luring gamblers with pirates, this place has a dutch design store that sells really expensive chairs made out of rags. and the lobby is designed by david rockwell. >> this is a new one we developed. >> reporter: his best known work including the home of the academy awards, the ultra hip nobu restaurants and playgrounds. but he had never done a casino before, and in the best way possible, it shows. >> how many of your bosses wanted to put slot machines here instead of this cool art? was that a fight? >> no, it wasn't a fight. >> you count the bubbles. >> reporter: unlike the sprawling gambling malls, rockwell had to take a small nine-acre footprint and go up. wow. look at that.
>> what we thought of as an inhabitable chandelier. >> reporter: wander through there and instead of buffets, you'll find a lineup of rock star chefs, like jose, ready to feed you a hall and caviar taco. >> you eat this and your life is going to change forever. >> reporter: okay. >> no, no. are you -- >> >> reporter: i'm ready for that. my life could use some changing. i don't deserve this. >> i think you do. >> we wanted to bring the spirit of spain. so, many of the things that you see are from the spanish designers, spanishes artists. so, here is like the spain of today, but also, the spain of yesterday. >> reporter: the scent of his one of a kind fire pit wafts next door, where instead of another championship boutique, dj vice caters to a group that wants custom nikes. >> this is the special v.i.p. vegas treatment. >> reporter: will i be attacked?
>> if someone asks, just run. >> reporter: a house hold name on the club scene, he's signed on here to keep the party pumping at marquee, a job, obviously, not for amateurs. ♪ >> try the right side. ♪ >> ah, yeah! >> reporter: it's the shoes. it got to be the shoes. >> all you need is a dj name now. >> reporter: what do you think is good? you want to keep it real short -- >> how about dj "nightline"? >> there you go. check for him on the next -- >> reporter: ted koppel might have it, though. and then, the high roller rooms, each with a balcony overlooking the desert glitz. this is very shrewd. you've poached the fountains there as your front view. >> oh. it looks nice. >> reporter: these views are another one of a kind experience, but they also show
the team exactly what they're up against. vegas is still limping back from a horrible slump with too many rooms and not enough guests. if they draw more gamblers than their bigger neighbor the belliago, it will still take 15 years for the german bankers to break even. everybody who writes about the cosmopolitan lists all the reasons it's going to fail. what is that like? >> well, i've been practicing for this opportunity my entire life. and i think what people have said to me is, you know, how does it feel to be the last in an a 21-year run of these megacasino resorts being built and developed in las vegas? and i don't see it that way. >> reporter: this isn't the last casino? >> definitely not. vegas has a great history of re-inventing itself. and you can think of a couple of
periods in time, the mirage being one. it was a sea change for las vegas. and i believe that the cosmopolitan will be seen as the beginning of that next era. i stand at the front door since i've been here in las vegas, thursday afternoon orb friday afternoon, i watch people walk in for their weekend and the look on their face, you can just see it. >> reporter: what's the look on their face when they're leaving? >> i'm not in this for a altruistic purpose. i want people to make money. i want it to be a fair exchange. when i walk on the plane, i'm going to be able to tell the guy who stayed at the cosmopolitan. he's tired, but he's got a smile on his face. >> reporter: hangover with a smile. you can use that. all right, let's go lose some money. >> now you're talking. >> vegas, baby. thanks to dj "nightline" for that report.
up next, over the last 50 years, he's been an entertainer to count on. and tonight, we take a look at regis philbin by the numbers. ♪ i hate suburbia and the bourgeoi-sie ♪ ♪ but i really love my bank ♪ i hate-- didn't quite catch that last bit. i said i really love my bank. right... is there a problem ? it's not really raging, man. uh, we were hoping for more raging ? well, you said write from the heart.
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>> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city with terry moran. >> with apologies to james brown, he's the other hardest working man in show business, from talk shows to game shows to sitcoms to cameo appearances beyond counting, regis philbin has spent his life with us in front of the camera. but today, he announced he would retire. so, here's jeremy hubbard with regis, by the numbers. >> well, i've got one of those
announcements to make today. >> for a guy pushing 80, the business new this morning sho d shouldn't really shock. >> this will be my last year on the show. no, i know, it's been a long time. >> reporter: but still, it does. perhaps because when you look at it by the numbers, regis and television are one and the same. 16,343, that's the number of hours he clocked on tv as of september 2009. a guinness world record for the most time spent in front of a television camera. that math adds up when you calculate the talk show -- >> here are regis philbin and kelly ripa. >> reporter: game shows -- >> let's play "who wants to be a millionaire?" >> reporter: commercials. >> when does he bank? >> reporter: sitcom guest spots. >> i still have dreams about this burger. beautiful, haunting dreams. >> reporter: and late night chats. he never seems to turn down a gig.
yep, that was him back in 1991 on "wrestle manias". >> i'm talking, of course, about the undertaker. >> reporter: 50 years is how long regis has been coming into our living room. it all started back in the 1960s. he was famous as joey bishop's side kick. >> that's his thing. >> i'm glad he finally got one. >> reporter: if that jacket didn't exactly suit him, his co-hosts for the last 28 years certainly did. two verbose companions. >> so i took this viagra. >> see? >> put it right here. you know? >> that's not where you're supposed to put it. >> together, we make one almost normal person. >> reporter: dissecting the day with a guy as uncool as dad and every bit as endearing. all the while, regis has been moonlighting. who could forget "who wants to be a millionaire?" >> final answer? >> final answer. >> reporter: which brings us to nine. that's the number of people he made into millionaires while
hosting the show. we don't know the number of those ties in his closet at the time. four is the number of albums regis recorded. you're forgiven if you down own a copy of "it's time for regis." few do. but he later became quite the crooner. ♪ just to be sad ♪ thinking of you >> reporter: countless songs, countless guests, countless punch lines. truth is, when you crunch the numbers on regis, much remains incalculable. >> you're a crazy man. >> reporter: like the number of impressions out there. >> one, two, three -- >> i'm out of com! >> reporter: and the impression he's left on us. after a half century on tv. i'm jeremy hubbard for "nightline" in new york. >> regis is a class act, period. thanks to jeremy hubbard for that report. when we come back, the chinese president's visit. but first, here's jimmy kimmel